Badges and the Habits of Mind

The Habits of Mind developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick have been around for over 25 years, and have received a bit of a boost lately due to a series of animations produced by WonderGrove. (This example on persisting will give you an idea.)

The 16 Habits of Mind are “attributes of what humans do when they behave intelligently” and include behaviors such as Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations and Thinking Flexibly. The Habits are appealing, and most educators who read through the list would certainly not in agreement that these are habits that our students should demonstrate.

The issue that often arises is that these habits – or any specific behaviors – is not specifically a part of the curriculum. Beyond the early elementary years, most teachers feel they need to focus primarily on content in the classroom; specific instruction time focused on these habits is unfortunately rare. The Habits of Mind are supposed to be a part of everyone’s teaching, which can mean that it ends up being no one’s responsibility.

To address this issue, some schools using Richer Picture are incorporating Habits of Mind as digital badges. Students need to demonstrate some number of the 16 Habits over time. By making the habits an explicit requirement, both students and teachers can become conscious of their usage. When creating assignments, teachers can check off which Habits will be useful in completing the project. When submitting work, students can note which Habits they felt they demonstrated. When setting goals, students can look over the list and consider which Habits they feel they already do well, and which will need some attention.

One side effect is that the school community starts to engage in a conversation about what it means to demonstrate the Habits. When a student submits an entry, and says, this is a demonstration of “Thinking Interdependently,” what is the evidence? What does this habit mean to us? What does it look like? Can we recognize this habit when we see it? If it’s supposed to be a “habit,” how often do we need to see this demonstrated?

Whether we are talking about the Habits of Mind, or workplace expectations, or any other type of non-academic goal, schools can benefit from internal conversations about what these goals mean. The process of defining a badge, and looking at student work as evidence, can help your school bring these hidden understandings to the surface, and help students make a conscious effort to demonstrate the Habits.

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